China, Telecom, and Canada's Deep State
By Keith Henderson
Much has been made recently of the Liberal government's special deal for SNC-Lavalin. Outright bribery of Libyan dictatorship officials? No problem. Remember it was only at the last moment eight years ago that Muammar Gaddafi's son was prevented from sitting on the Board of Directors of SNC-Lavalin as an Executive VP. SNC-Lavalin paid millions in bribes to his wife and family, paid for his luxury condo in Toronto, half a million for an exclusive performance by rapper 50 cent at the Toronto Film Festival, paid for his huge yacht, and as Libya collapsed, tried to secure him a visa on the way to permanent residence in Canada. Nothing there, really, is there? Remember, too, prominent Quebec Liberals sat on the Board of Directors of SNC-Lavalin, already found guilty of making all sorts of illegal campaign contributions.
Eight years and pending court cases later, the same Liberal deep state operatives tried to get a plea deal organized for the company they're so close to. They snuck enabling legislation into an omnibus finance bill. Connected people wanted this to happen. But an aboriginal Attorney General apparently didn't, so she was removed from her post and a potentially more pliant Liberal replaced her, with results that remain to be seen.
In all these outrageous preparations for impunity, Canadians haven't paid sufficient attention to the involvement of Canada's often compliant mainstream media and the big telephone companies that sometimes own them. Who broke the story about Jody Wilson-Raybould? Bell Globe Media did. Could they have covered it up? Most certainly they could have. It was a story based on anonymous sources. NBC sat on the Harvey Weinstein affair with far less pretext. The entire SNC-Lavalin story is a saga of backroom deals and secret arrangements that continue to this day, the most recent evidence the brazen stone-walling of the Liberal Justice Committee, which met on February 15 and refused even to invite the former AG to testify. Perhaps the Liberal majority might vote in favour in a few days, but that decision will be made behind closed doors.
If Bell Globe Media could have covered the Jody Wilson-Raybould story up, why didn't they? Perhaps their editors are filled with journalistic integrity. But perhaps there's another explanation, an open field for conspiracy theorists, always plausible when the context is one of thoroughly shady dealings.
Consider the parallel case here, that of Huawei's CFO Meng Wanzhou, under house arrest in one of her Vancouver mansions and awaiting trial for extradition to the US. The Chinese clearly do not want this to happen, since they've kidnapped two of our citizens (one a diplomat) and threatened to execute another in retaliation. Neither do giant Canadian Telecoms, the ones who, with the complicity of the CRTC, charge you more for your cell phone service than virtually anywhere else in the world. Rogers, Telus, and Bell have invested billions in Huawei equipment to build out Canada's 5G network. America does not want them to, because the State Department and CIA (along with Australia and New Zealand) suspect Huawei of being a high tech stalking horse for the Chinese intelligence service – not an unreasonable assumption, given the company's founding by a prominent member of the Chinese Army.
However, many deep state Canadian operatives have centred themselves around the Canada China Business Council, including Stockwell Day, former Tory leader now CBC commentator, as well as executives from Power Corporation and SNC-Lavalin. Should this be a surprise? Some weighed in on the Meng Wanzhou extradition. "A terrible idea," they claimed. Chief among them was Canada's Ambassador to China, John McCallum, who made his pro-Wanzhou views known publicly, not once but twice, clearly (and undiplomatically) enough that he was summarily dismissed. So, the Liberal government didn't take the obvious hint. Lay off Meng Wanzhou. Lay off Huawei, those wonderful folks who, courtesy of Rogers, now bring you Hockey Night in Canada. As the dictatorship in China has frequently suggested, you can put your finger on the scale of justice and tilt it in the right direction. Do so. But if you refuse, as seems the case with Trudeau and Huawei (no credit to the PM here, as he has Trump watching his every move), well, then we'll expose your hypocrisy at great political cost both to you and your government. You won't tilt the scales in Huawei's instance, but you will in SNC-Lavalin's? Well, you may not be Prime Minister for long – courtesy big Telco.
Keith Henderson is former leader of Quebec’s Equality Party and author of Acqua Sacra (DC Books 2016), a crime novel detailing Quebec, Italian, and Libyan construction company corruption.